Granted, it’s been just five games since the 25-year-old was promoted to the major-league level to make his debut in Fenway Park, but he’s asserted himself as a key piece in this Braves lineup — a lineup that was starved for production out of the second base spot just one week ago. La Stella, to an overwhelming degree in his short time in the bigs, has filled that void.
Sure, the glove has presented some problems (notably in Boston), but that was the book on the Coastal Carolina product coming up through the minor leagues: solid bat, fielding needs some work. That’s held true in the majors thus far. Plus, it’s not as if La Stella is standing in for a Gold Glover-caliber fielder here — anything is better than what the Braves received defensively last season.
Then there’s the bat.
The rookie is hitting .400/.471/.400 with two walks and zero strikeouts through his first 18 plate appearances. That’s more than likely unsustainable (he’s had some good fortune in batted balls in play), and that’s OK. The Braves don’t absolutely need him to be a .350-plus hitter and if he is then, well, that’s simply a bonus. Atlanta does not even need him to provide power — fortunately, because that’s probably not within his capabilities at the moment. It’s not like they were getting those power numbers from the likes of Dan Uggla, Ramiro Pena and Tyler Pastornicky: those three combined four just four home runs in 252 plate appearances this season. In his short time in an Atlanta uniform, he’s been an upgrade.
Then there’s Shae Simmons, who was promoted directly from Double-A to the majors and received action in his very first game, striking out his only batter in a tricky spot. He’s another power arm to add to this formidable, albeit banged-up, Braves bullpen and his first two outings can only be considered successful for a guy who was pitching in Mississippi last week. Our writers discuss the two new rookies, Craig Kimbrel’s pursuit of the franchise saves record and more in the latest episode: